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Monday, July 30

Arcanis Wiki Update

The entries have been updated to Chapter 28, Baumann's Prize, wherein Kham faces off against the Well-Dressed Man to rescue his father, Corinalous val'Abebi and grab some ghoul juice while he's at it.

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Grains of Sand - Part 8: Spawn of Tizzhet

“A Spawn of Tizzhet!” Beldin skidded into the room. “It must have been awakened by the glowing tiles!”

“Spawn of whozit?” asked Kham.

“Tizzhet of the Many Limbs, an ancient being from the far realms,” said Ilmarė. She fired two arrows into it, but they melted and smoked in the acidic flesh of the thing.

“How do we stop it?” asked Vlad.

Kham dove to the side as more greedy tentacles grasped for him. What was it Quintus was trying to tell him? Use the neck what?

Upside down, Quintus’ flesh was seared red from the acid where the tentacles were gnawing away at him. Smoke spiraled from where it touched his armor. And Kham had made fun of him for wearing his lorica segmentata in the desert. It sharply contrasted with the necklace he attacked the…

The necklace!

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Wednesday, July 25

D&D 4th Edition Advisory System


Just needed to post this, because it's funny:

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posted by Michael Tresca at 5:00 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Grains of Sand - Part 7: The Well of Visions

The small circular chamber was covered in handwritten verses, scrawled by a mad hand. Sheets of paper lay strewn upon the floor, in some places inches thick, covered in the same rushed script.

“What the…” said Beldin. A sheet of paper floated down from above.

Above them was a young woman, her head cast back, swirling high around the chamber. She was writing madly upon a sheaf of paper, stopping only long enough to rip off one sheet to scribble on the next. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:49 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Monday, July 23

Grains of Sand - Part 6: Enter Jarel

As the door swung open, a black-bearded dwarf looked up. He was manacled to the rear wall, but still had an aura of dignity about himself.

“And just who are you, now?”

Beldin peered curiously at the middle-aged dwarf. “Encali, hmm? I’m Beldin Soulforge of Solanos Mor. What are you doing here?”

“I am Jarel of Encali.” He wiggled one of his manacled hands. “I don’t suppose you can help me out of this?”

Beldin grunted. Then he lifted his axe overhead. [MORE]

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Friday, July 20

Silent Hill Inspired By Real Events

This freaked me out:

Centralia was the pre-production codename and a small influence for the movie adaptation of the game Silent Hill.[1]


It's a real place!

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[Occult Modern Settings] The Wikipedia Supplement

I don't normally link to threads, but this is one of the most interesting threads I've ever read:

Here's the concept. Post one or more links to a Wikipedia Article which you consider to be good fodder for any modern occult setting (UA, Delta Green, Witchcraft, Con X, AFMBE, whatever). Hopefully, we'll end up with a bundle of material that can serve as inspiration and adventure seeds. [MORE]

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"I'd close World of Warcraft!"

A couple of weeks ago Keith Stuart promised an interview with Richard Bartle, co-creator of the original Multi-User Dungeon (or Domain if you prefer) set up back in 1978 at the University of Essex. He asked for questions and received several suggestions which he put to Mr Bartle earlier this week, along with some of his own queries. [MORE]

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Thursday, July 19

Grains of Sand - Part 5e: Castle in the Sand

Quintus was on his knees, staring at the corpse of the woman he had slain.

Kham walked over to Quintus. “What’s wrong?”

“They’re not legionnaires,” said Quintus. “Legionnaires can’t marry.”

“What’s your point?”

Quintus gingerly held the dead woman’s hand in his, almost as if he were proposing. On her second finger of her left hand was a similar copper ring, carved in the shape of two clasped hands holding the symbol of a black cat.

“This is a wedding ring,” said Quintus. He slowly turned to look at the dead man, his spiked armor still smoking from Kham’s shots. “I just killed that man’s wife.” [MORE]

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Monday, July 16

Grains of Sand - Part 5d: Castle in the Sand

Quintus was still trying to put out the flames around him when he suddenly couldn’t hear his own heartbeat. He saw something metallic flash out of the corner of his eye and ducked just in time to avoid being beheaded by a scimitar.

Quintus drew his own gladius. He parried blow after blow, but it took all his concentration. For one, he had only recently put out the flames on his tunic. For another, he couldn’t hear a thing. He was fighting in utter silence.

The legionnaire thrust his gladius at the woman’s head, but she batted it away with a wooden shield. She was dressed in leather armor—no match for Quintus’ lorica segmentata, but flexible enough to give her a slight advantage. Judging from her clumsy blows, she wasn’t a trained warrior.

If only he had his scutum and signum! He would never have let get so close.

The silence meant no prayers to Illiir. So then, bare steel was how they would finish their quarrel. [MORE]

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My Thoughts on Cloverfield

Like everyone else, I saw the Cloverfield trailer (here: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/11808/hd/) before Transformers and my head exploded. I was already primed for a huge battle between giant robots in a crowded metropolis...a mysterious rampage filmed, Blair Witch style, helmed by J.J. Abrams, was icing on the cake. The marketing was ingenious and viral. Just enough to tell us what the movie's about but not enough to tell us what the movie is all about.

Since then, crazy stuff's been flying all over the web. There's the question as to whether the Ethan Haas site has anything to do with Cloverfield. More and more, it looks like that's not the case and actually a situation where two viral marketing campaigns collided (an inevitability in the age of copycat marketing, I'm afraid). I'm sure the guys at Mind Storm Labs are thrilled. In fact, I'd venture to say that outside of the Dungeons & Dragons promotion in that GE commercial (where a geek gives a Player's Handbook to a supermodel), this is the most publicity a table-top RPG has ever received.

Not that it matters. Clueless Forbes.com thinks it's "a campaign for a video game" http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/575467/20081850.

What's really telling about all this hoopla is how ridiculous the blogging community is as a news source. For example, the assertion that Cloverfield was tied to Cthulhu was made by an ANONYMOUS POSTER on one of the Ethan Haas sites. This would of course require maybe a half hour of digging through Google to find out exactly what the source was (or wasn't). But there are many, many blogs out there that repeat every piece of news as if it were true, breathlessly reporting that the Ethan Haas site was part of the Cloverfield campaign, or that Ethan Haas was definitely featuring the Cthulhu mythos because it had "Cthulhu fhtagn!" as a secret message, or (this is my favorite) that Ethan Haas is definitely tied to the Cthulhu messages because the entry on Wikipedia says so.

Kids...I love Wikipedia. I do. But I recently discovered that the average salaries for graduates of Dowling College (my undergraduate alma mater) make "$5,987". Because some wanker edited it. In case this is news, anyone can edit Wikipedia. What's the Internet coming to these days when suddenly our fearless bloggers are all so gullible as to believe Wikipedia hook, line, and sinker? Hell, some bloggers even pointed out that the entry didn't have the line...and then suddenly referenced Cthulhu an hour later. Almost like it was...EDITED!

There's a lot of wacky theories about Cloverfield that seem to be forged of hopes and good wishes. I think it's time to inject a little bit of common sense into those theories, which seems to be lacking a lot these days. So let's deconstruct them one by one, shall we?

First, a few things need to be established. By all accounts, Cloverfield is about a giant beast of some sort, which we can reasonably assume from the roaring going on in the background, playing football with the Statue of Libery's head, etc. Abrams is letting us know, to quote The Thing, "Whatever it is, it's weird and pissed off."

Second, the trailer was filmed entirely with handheld cameras. Abrams is giving us a feel for what the movie is like. And it's scary as all get out.

1) Voltron. This is almost exclusively based on the rumor that Abrams was working on Voltron and that someone shouts, "It looks like a lion!"

Have you seen Voltron?

You do realize that it's about a colorful Super Sentai, or superhero team, using giant mechanized lions to defend the universe against giant monsters, right? And that those lions turn into a giant robot that wields a BLAZING SWORD, right? And that the primary villains, giant monsters called Robeasts, were formed by a witch (yes, I said witch) named Haggar, who usually gave them some kind of magic to make them ridiculously large and thus suitable for fighting Voltron...need I go on?

In short, Voltron is a superhappyfuntime anime-style, big mecha, kid-friendly genre. Anyone confusing Transformers with Voltron has not watched Voltron. Transformers took itself seriously most of the time. Voltron is Power Rangers with Lions. This is not a genre you produce with handheld cameras. Nor is it particularly scary.

2) Cthulhu. Now I want this to be so true. I really do. But there is bupkis to support this theory. The Cthulhu fhtagn nonsense was tied to Ethan Haas, not Cloverfield. However, the theme of apocalyptic horror fits -- instead of showing the massive beast on a wide-angle lens, it's appropriate to film it from the human perspective. In other words, a you-are-there kind of guerilla style.

3 Lost. And what, exactly, makes the trailer reminiscent of the style of Lost? Some folks are positing that it’s a flashback of sorts. Are you kidding me? The entire tone of the trailer doesn’t match up with Lost. In fact, it’s the anti-Lost. Lost is subtle, slowly building to one-two gut punches. The trailer was like a shotgun to the face. Abrams was producer on Felicity too. But I don’t see anyone making that connection (but that show DOES frighten me).

4) Alias. God help us. Similarly, there’s nothing right about the tone of the film that matches up with Alias. But then, Alias had a season finale involving zombies, so that’s a bit more plausible. Still, the whole point of Alias is ya know, Sydney. No Sydney in the trailer? Not Alias.

5) Godzilla. This is the go to guy for giant monsters. I’m surprised everyone isn’t claiming it’s King Kong, but I’m guessing that’s because nobody can top Peter Jackson. And Godzilla’s associated with fire breathing, so heck, that makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn’t, because Godzilla isn’t personal horror. Godzilla is like a natural disaster. It’s hard to make natural disaster films as personal as the trailer. And the rights to Godzilla aren’t available. And Godzilla’s already been done, horribly, before. Studio execs are a cautious lot. My guess is they’re not ready to immediately remake a major mess, not when there’s so many other ripe franchises just waiting to be screwed up.

The one thing that does seem to be connecting Godzilla and Voltron together is that Slusho.jp is undeniably a Japanese site. And it’s weird. All this talk about people drinking some kind of weird concoction and getting as big as whales. Sounds like Honey I Blew Up the Kid.

6) The Dark Tower. I haven’t read the series. Is there a giant monster in it? I didn’t think so…

The truth is that it’s likely an original property, or a remake of a Japanese property. There are a dizzying variety of giant monster (kaiju) films that could fit the bill. But that’s not important. What’s important is the style of film that the trailer showed us. And that is a personalized horror at an apocalyptic event. With the advent of 9/11, big monsters have lost most of their appeal. When a building explodes, when a beloved monument is defaced, it is greeted with mounting dread.

Abrams and his crew know what they’re doing. Now they just have to live up to the hype.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 8:03 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Sunday, July 15

Complete Guide to Werewolves On Sale!

From Goodman Game's site:
We’re cleaning out our warehouse. Five years in business means we’ve got some dusty books in the back! For the entire month of July we’ll have sale books for THREE BUCKS, but there’s a catch: we need to clean out the warehouse!

So here’s the deal: The following books are really cheap, but only if you spend a minimum of $20 (before shipping).

If your total order is $20 or more (cheap books and/or regular price products), use the “Old Stuff for Cheap” sale prices below. You can buy some cheap books, then hit the $20 minimum with some regular priced books if you need to. Otherwise, click into the categories below for regular price products.

Please note: We have had an enormous response to this sale. We may need an extra couple days to fill some orders. [MORE]

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Friday, July 13

Grains of Sand - Part 5c: Castle in the Sand

“No help for it now,” said Quintus to no one in particular, but possibly to Kham if he were nearby, invisible. He grabbed one of the globes from the necklace around his neck and hurled it at the cluster of enemies.

The ensuing explosion rocked the cavernous room. Several of the wagons caught on fire.

“Whoa,” came Kham’s voice from behind Quintus, scaring the daylights out of him. “I want one of those!”

“You can’t have it,” said Quintus. “Now give me the box.”

“In a minute,” said Kham.

Quintus’ reply was cut off as a vertical column of fire roared down around him. [MORE]

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Sunday, July 8

Grains of Sand - Part 5b: Castle in the Sand

“Hey Quintus!” whispered Kham to nowhere in particular. “I think I found…” he locked gazes with the man in spike chainmail, “…it. Uh oh.”

“What do you mean uh oh?” whispered Quintus. “Give me the box.”

“I can’t see you,” said Kham out of the side of his mouth. He slowly reached for another potion in his coat. “But I think someone can see me.”

“INTRUDER!” shouted the man at the top of the lungs.

“Yep,” Kham swigged another invisibility potion. “He saw me.” [MORE]

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Thursday, July 5

Zombie CSI: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead

Jonathan Maberry interviewed me for his upcoming book, Zombie CSI: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead. Check it out:
Keep watching the shadows…something strange is coming: Zombie CSI: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead…a new nonfiction book by Jonathan Maberry (bestselling author of GHOST ROAD BLUES and VAMPIRE UNIVERSE). Coming from Citadel Press in 2008. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:58 AM | 1 comments links to this post


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Movie Review: Transformers

Michael Bay's reputation for non-stop action flicks that involve multiple explosions has given me pause in the past. I mean, too many high concept films have been ruined by this sort of lowest common denominator pandering, and when Transformers came out...

Wait a minute, what am I saying? Non-stop action flick? Check. Multiple explosions? Check! Big budget special effects? CHECK. Peter Cullen, the original voice actor of Optimus Prime in the cartoon series, playing Optimus Prime in the movie? OMG I AM SO THERE!!1!1! [MORE]

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Monday, July 2

Grains of Sand - Part 5a: Castle in the Sand

“I thought you’d never make it,” said Ilmarė with a bemused smirk.

“And miss this?” asked Beldin. He pointed at the wall. “You’ll need a dwarf’s eye if you’re going to survive this place. It looks as if those hieroglyphs were designed to ward off invaders from the fortress.”

Vlad froze in mid-step. “Uh…”

“Don’t worry,” said the dwarf. “They no longer have any magical power.”

The walls, floor and ceiling of the passage changed from the yellowed Myrantian hieroglyphs to strange tiled square containing an unsettling carved image of a many-tentacled creature resembling a starfish.

“Something feels wrong,” said Ilmarė.

When they were a ways in, the stone tiles began to hum and glow a pale violet color.

“A dwarf’s eye, huh?” Ilmarė shot Beldin a glare. [MORE]

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